Turkey celebrates Victory Day

96th anniversary of Atatürk’s military and political achievement

As Turkey commemorates the 96th anniversary of the ultimate battle of its War of Liberation, renowned Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı has said the victory gave a message to the world that “we are here to stay,” thanks to the “military and political prodigy” of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.


Cemetery and memorial commemorating the decisive battle of Turkey’s War of Liberation

In an interview with Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, Ortaylı, an history professor at Istanbul’s Galatasaray University, recalled that Seljuk Turks took control over Anatolia after the Battle of Dorylaeum with the then crusaders during the First Crusade in July 1, 1097, near the city of Dorylaeum located close to Turkey’s Eskişehir province. This allowed Turks to settle in Anatolia.

Turkish domination in Anatolia began with the Battle of Malazgirt in Aug. 26, 1071, which saw Seljuk Turks led by Sultan Alparslan defeat a Byzantine army.

[Ortaylı] recalled that the then global powers wanted Turks to leave Anatolia after the First World War.

“They [the then Entente States, also known as Allied Powers] tried to get it [Anatolia], but they failed to achieve their aim,” Ortaylı said, adding that the Entente states, especially Britain, wanted Turks to leave Anatolia on the grounds that they were supposedly “outlanders” and thus could not be a part of Anatolia.

Therefore, Turkey’s decisive victory on Aug. 30, 1922, which was later “legitimized” by the Lausanne Agreement, was a “we are here to stay” message to the world, Ortaylı said.

The well-known Turkish historian also recalled the Greek Commander Ioannis Metaxas’s warning against launching an offensive in Anatolia. Metaxas had refused to launch the offensive and told Greek politicians that the war in Turkey could not be won, Ortaylı said.

“The Turks developed a national feeling,” the author, David Fromkin, quoted Metaxas as saying in his book “A Peace to End All Peace”. “And they mean to fight for their freedom and independence. They realize that Asia Minor is their country and that we are invaders. For them, for their national feelings, the historical rights on which we base our claims, have no influence.” 

Turkey was occupied by allied forces after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War (1914-1918). The foreign occupation prompted Turkey’s War of Independence in 1919, in which Turkish forces — led by Gen. Mustafa Kemal — eventually drove the invaders from Anatolia.

From Aug. 26 to Aug. 30 of 1922, Turkish forces fought the Battle of Dumlupınar (considered part of the Greco-Turkish War) in Turkey’s western Kütahya province, where Greek forces were decisively defeated.

By the end of 1922, all foreign forces had left the territories which would collectively become the new Republic of Turkey one year later.